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Crosby has been a no-show so far for Penguins

Crosby has been a no-show so far for Penguins

PITTSBURGH -- As the Capitals and Penguins eagerly await tonight’s Game 4 of their first-round playoff series, Pittsburgh authorities might want to put out an APB on Sidney Crosby.

Through the first three games against the Capitals, the Penguins’ captain has zero points, six shots and a minus-3 rating.

Why?

“The players against him keep an inside position,” Capitals coach Barry Trotz said. “He’s very skilled and we’re making him play some defense, taking away his time and space. We’ve done a pretty good job of that.”

RELATED: WEBER PREPARING TO REPLACE SCHMIDT ON CAPS' BLUE-LINE IN GAME 4

In the first three games of this series, the Caps’ top line of Alex Ovechkin, Nicklas Backstrom and T.J. Oshie has outscored the Penguins’ top line of Conor Sheary, Patric Hornqvist and Crosby by a 4-1 count. The Caps’ top defense pairing of Karl Alzner and Matt Niskanen has gotten a big assist.

"I'd say the first two games we definitely had some good chances, had a lot of zone time, and that's more of what we're looking for,” Crosby said on Wednesday. “If we have a game like that we'll generate a lot more and hopefully bury a few chances. You always want more and if you look at last game we weren't there, we didn't generate enough, we were on our heels a lot and we've gotta find a way to put some pucks to the net." 

Asked why the Caps had the Penguins on their heels in Game 3, outshooting them 49-23, Crosby said, "I don't know. I think we just weren't aggressive. When you're aggressive you force mistakes, you don't allow them time and space. They're a good team and if you give them time and space they're going to make plays. Maybe we were overthinking things a little too much, or maybe once you get a lead it's hard not to sit on it a bit. I think we were guilty of that." 

The Penguins are also 0-for-10 on the power play through three games of this series and have found it difficult to break the Caps’ outstanding penalty kill, led by Jay Beagle, Daniel Winnik, Mike Richards, Tom Wilson, Karl Alzner, Matt Niskanen, John Carlson and Taylor Chorney.

“As the series goes on you're going to see special teams are more and more important,” Crosby said. “With how tight the games are, whoever wins that special teams battle is probably going to end up winning the game. 

“It's just understanding we've gotta be better there and find a way to help our team out by getting those goals on the power play. Up to this point it hasn't been as good as we want it to, but hopefully the best is yet to come for that and we can make sure it helps us win some games here."

MORE CAPITALS: KRIS LETANG SPEAKS ON GAME 4 SUSPENSION AT MORNING SKATE

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3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

3 reasons the Caps beat the Sabres

The Caps could not shake Buffalo for two periods, but a dominant finish on Saturday helped them pull away for a 5-1 win. Here's how they finally put away the Sabres.

A quick start

Strong starts go a long way towards helping a team in the middle of a slump. It's a confidence boost for a group in desperate need of one and the Caps got that boost on Saturday from Evgeny Kuznetsov. Kuznetsov used his wheels to zip in behind the defense and score just 50 seconds into the game. Washington led 1-0 at the end of the first, just the second time in 19 games they have held a lead after the opening 20 minutes.

RELATED: SEE THE 3 STARS FROM CAPS-SABRES HERE

Andre Burakovsky snapping a second period slump

It looked in the second period like the Caps were caught trying to protect the lead again, but Andre Burakovsky woke the team back up with his incredible highlight end-to-end goal. It really looked like Buffalo was going to tie the game at one, but instead, Burakovsky extended the lead to two. Going end to end the way he did shows a player who is starting to play with some confidence, something Burakovsky has lacked for much of the season.

Ovechkin's two-goal third period

Buffalo would not go away. Sam Reinhart got the Sabres on the board just 14 seconds into the third period and suddenly the Caps found themselves in a one-goal game again. But Ovechkin ended any hopes for the comeback as he struck in the top corner of the net on the power play from the office. He would later add a deflection goal to extend the lead to 5-1, giving a scuffling Washington team the dominant win they so sorely needed.

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3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

3 stars of the game: Caps erupt in 3rd for dominant win over Sabres

The Capitals needed a win in the worst way and they got one, dispatching the Buffalo Sabres in dominating fashion with a 5-1 win.

Washington was locked in a tight game leading 2-0 heading into the third period when Sam Reinhart scored just 14 seconds into the period to pull Buffalo to within one. The Caps then slammed the door shut, scoring three unanswered goals to put away the Sabres.

Here are the three stars of the game.

1. Alex Ovechkin: This was career game No. 983 for Ovechkin, tying him for the franchise record for most games played with Calle Johansson. Ovechkin very fittingly celebrated the occasion with two goals. The first came on a power play goal from the office, but there was no need for a one-timer on this one. The Sabres gave him all the time he needed to aim up the shot and wrist it into the top corner.

He added a second goal late off a deflection from a John Carlson shot.

2. Evgeny Kuznetsov: To say the Caps have struggled at the start of games would be an understatement. In the last 18 games, Washington has held the lead after the first period only once. Kuznetsov made sure this game started off on the right foot as he scored just 50 seconds into the game. He turned on the jets in the neutral zone to turn the edge on Jason Pominville then easily skated around a weak, ill-advised challenge from Robin Lehner before flinging the puck into the yawning net.

It was the fastest goal to start a game by the Caps this season. It was just the start of what would be a four-point night for the Caps' center as he added three assists.

3. Andre Burakovsky: Burakovsky had the highlight of the game with his end-to-end goal in the second period to put Washington up 2-0. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon as he launched himself from the defensive zone, streaked down the center of the ice and in on net to slide the puck through the Lehner's five-hole.

Look how Burakovsky was able to slice through the Sabres' defense. Buffalo had him surrounded, but his speed caught the Sabres off-guard and they were not able to recover in time to actually slow him down.